Something magical happens at this age (it could also happen earlier or later for some children). A child begins to decode language and understand how phonetic sounds come together to make words. Words make sentences. And sentences make sense! Before this time, letters were concepts, independent of one another, disconnected figures.
Not all children will learn to read confidently by the age of 6. Some children may learn by age 8 or 9 or 10, especially boys. Do not be discouraged! If a child is consistently read to, has a lot of interaction, engages in play, has normal emotional, physical, and social development, then he will turn out just fine. There is plenty of time for your child to develop into a proficient reader.
Maximize this stage. Let him enjoy learning, encourage his interests, and answer his why questions! (There will be alot of these.) Above all, DON’T NEGLECT BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION AND CHARACTER! This will be the most important thing you teach at this stage. Character lessons, memorizing bible verses about character traits, dialoguing about character and the word of God, and giving your kids opportunities to apply character should be a priority. I like how Tedd Tripp put it in his book, Shepherding A Child’s Heart. “No child is neutral.” We need to raise our children to love, know, obey, serve, and worship God.
HOW I TEACH READING…
(Just a note, I’m not an expert reading teacher. My children have, at certain times, been “victims” of my experiments. But I have included here what has worked for us. Maybe you can pick up something for your own kids, too.)
Start slow and gentle (10 to 15 minutes of daily phonics instruction is fine at the beginning until they can handle more). I used to do just 5 minutes with my kids everyday and eventually, they were ready for more extended periods of instruction time.
Master each letter sound through repetition. I use Sing, Spell, Read, and Write’s ABC song and flash cards many many times before my kids ever memorize the letter sounds or start writing anything. I also supplement with programs like Reading Eggs, Click and Read , Starfall , Hooked on Phonics, Bob Books, as well as games, Ipad apps, or my own home-made flash cards.
Invest in a good phonics program. I recommend Sing, Spell, Read, and Write. I like it because it is a complete program. Get the All Aboard and On Track for Kindergarten, and Off We Go and Raceway for Preparatory. Be sure to purchase a copy of the CD. The intructor’s kit comes with charts, colored flash cards, readers, and teacher’s guides. One downside to SSRW is that boys don’t like the writing parts (there are lists and lists of vocabulary and spelling words to write in the Raceway level) and they haven’t updated it in a while. But this program is pretty sure-fire. All of my five kids learned to read using it. There are other great phonics programs out there, too.
Read to your child daily. Admittedly, there are days when I don’t get to read aloud to my younger kids. But I have noticed that my children learn to connect words they hear to the text they see on the page when I read to them frequently. Periodically, I will identify words by pointing at them with my finger as I read to them, especially words I am trying to teach them.
Make books and reading important (give books as gifts or rewards, go to the bookstore or library together, encourage older children to read to younger siblings, let your children see you reading, etc).
De-prioritize TV time and gadget time. It’s way more entertaining than learning to read and may affect your child’s attention span or his motivation to read. I noticed this with my fourth daughter, Tiana, who got more “TV babysitting time” than her other siblings. At present, TV time is reserved for the weekends. There are days when the kids will watch a show or two, but we keep this to a minimum. Generally, extended TV watching and being on gadgets does not happen often in our home at these ages.
Be positive even with the seemingly small milestones. Your goal may be proficient reading, but if your child is able to sound out a word like “Sam,” this is cause for a big celebration! Bring out the tambourines! Be generous with praise!
Be patient. When they get it, they will really get it, and they will take off like you won’t believe. I’ve seen it happen with all my kids. Catalina is at that stage where she is beginning to get it. And there are days when she will read sight words that she has read only once or twice before and I will be like, “Whoa! How did you do that?!” (She’s still got a long way to go, but it’s an exciting time.) At the beginning of last year, she hardly had any phonics instruction. She wasn’t ready. So I waited for a bit. I had to be patient. I try to prioritise the love for learning in my children. When I sense that they aren’t ready for a task and my goals are too ambitious, I back off.
HOW I TEACH MATH…
First off, some inspiration:
‘The universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word. Without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.’ Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)
A child must understand that Mathematics, defined as the study of the measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities and sets, using numbers and symbols, is not just a subject. It is everywhere, it is fundamental, it is universal. Unlike learning to read a language in one country versus another, mathematics uses the same rules. When you go shopping in a country like Singapore, you add up your bill the same way you add up your bill in the Philippines (currencies may vary, but computing for the sum of your bill does not differ). Numbers as symbols, measurement, sorting, classifying, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc…It all means the same thing no matter where you are. The irrational number π, is universally accepted as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — approximately equal to 3.14159. No kindergartener has to know that…I’m just saying that math is actually “easier” to teach than something like reading (and that’s coming from someone who never liked math but now enjoys teaching it.)
Use a math workbook as a guide for the skills that have to be covered, but don’t be dependent on it. I’m not generally an advocate of workbooks because I feel like parents can get so obsessed with their kids answering every single problem in a workbook and panicking about finishing the entire workbook by the end of the year that they get unpleasantly militant towards their kids. However, one positive thing about workbooks is that they are sequenced in the proper order for skills. (I use Singapore Math materials for my kids. You can purchase cheaper options at National Bookstore. Learning Plus at Ayala 30th also carries Singapore Math books for homeschoolers.
Many workbooks out there assume that a child can think abstractly which is why I prefer Singapore Math’s philosophy. At this age they need a whole lot of concrete examples and pictures. This is also Singapore Math’s philosophy (concrete –> pictorial –> abstract). So, if you get to a point in the workbook where your child seems to be struggling, take time to go back to concrete examples so they experience math.
Don’t rush. Math concepts build on one another so the foundation has to be strong. For example, counting from 1 to 20 doesn’t mean squat unless a child understands that each number represents a quantity. Don’t be impressed with 3 year old children who can count up to 100 unless they can show you how much 100 is. If you feel your child isn’t ready to move to the next level, there’s no shame in repeating concepts to make sure your child has an excellent grasp of the basics. I had to and still have to do this with my fourth child, Tiana. We have gone through concepts at a slower pace than her other siblings so that she will really understand them.
Master Arithmetic.The method or process of computation with figures: the most elementary branch of mathematics. By six years old, children usually understand that numbers are symbolic of quantities. They know the difference between properties of things (big vs. small, more vs. less, tall vs. short, etc.). They can also classify based on properties (sort by color, shape, texture, etc.), and they can determine the next object or item in simple sequences. These are all very helpful, foundational skills. However, what they will really need moving forward is good arithmetic skills — the ability to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and knowing when to add, subtract, multiply, or divide (or a combination of two or more of these) to solve a problem. You might want to consider a program like Abacus Math.
Practice, practice, practice. Doing math is like exercising a muscle. The more practice children get, the quicker they will be able to solve for solutions and the less prone they will be to making careless mistakes. A child may understand what 5 + 3 is but take 5 minutes to give an answer because he is counting his fingers. If he gets lots of practice, he can work through problems quicker and with greater confidence. Personally, I prefer that my children do their math everyday (except the weekends). I try not to do less than 4 days a week of math to keep them “mathematically sharp.”
Play games. Games are a fun way to get kids to apply their arithmetic and problem-solving skills without feeling like it is “work.” We play board games with our kids, and I get apps on my Ipad for them, too. Check out Kids Numbers for some online math games. Edan also invents math games for his sister, Tiana, to help her…something I really appreciate!
HOW I TEACH WRITING
Writing can be a big challenge for boys. I’ve got three of them and none of them are particularly fond of writing. However, boys can be taught how to write and write well. You just need to be, oh, so very patient, as they develop pencil-holding ability, coordination, confidence, and then learn how to take their ideas and paper-ize them. You can do dictation style or allowing them to copy something you write out. I correct spelling and grammar along the way. Catalina who is four, still needs help holding her pencil at times. She is starting to write letters and numbers correctly, but she need daily practice.
I don’t make my kids do pages of penmanship. Frankly, pencils will be outdated soon with all the technology out there. But, I still think it’s an important skill to learn. I just don’t believe in making a big deal out of penmanship. However, if you are sending your child to conventional school in the very near future then penmanship might be on your priority list. They will need to take notes in class and penmanship will matter.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER SUBJECT AREAS?
Everything else, like Science, History, Filipino, etc. can be introduced by reading from books, having discussions, doing experiments (for Science), and projects (for History). I prefer to focus on the basics — reading and math — since they are foundational.
SOME OTHER THINGS…
This stage involves more structure, but I keep lessons SHORT, especially for my four year old. I give lots of breaks. Catalina, finishes all her work within an hour or an hour and a half. This doesn’t include bible-reading time and read-aloud time.